A Day of Food on a High-Protein, Low-Carb Diet

A Menu That Goes Well With the South Beach Diet, Low-Carb, or Paleo Plans

salmon with kale in pan
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If you've decided to try a high-protein, low-carb diet you will want to know what a typical meal plan is for the day. Many diets such as the South Beach diet, the Atkins diet, Protein Power, and the Paleo diet approach emphasize low-carb eating, choosing higher protein options, and keeping fat in your diet.

A good diet has you looking forward to meals, thinking creatively about what's next, and enjoying what you eat.

Although you may be eating less, you won't be missing meals and you'll enjoy flavorful food.

Basics of a Low-Carb, High-Protein Daily Meal Plan

You will want to plan your meals around meat, fish, eggs, non-starchy vegetables, nuts, seeds, lower-carb fruit. If you are not on the Paleo diet, you can include milk products, cheese, and non-gluten grains. Stick with water, coffee, and tea while skipping any sweetened beverage, beer, wine, or cocktails.

You can decide whether you only have a very light breakfast or you have a full breakfast meal. Some people do well with going longer between meals while others prefer keeping their blood sugar more steady by having a small meal or snack every few hours.

Once you learn what's acceptable and what's to be avoided on any diet plan, it becomes easier to start mapping out your own meals. You can look at other sample daily menus or use an online nutritional analysis calculator to count your carbs, protein, and calories.

A Day of Low-Carb, High-Protein Food

The following daily menu has 32 grams of net carbohydrates (55 grams of total carbohydrates), 23 grams of fiber, 103 grams of protein, 1,604 calories, and all the daily requirements for vitamins and minerals except for calcium and vitamin D. It's also a little low on iron for premenopausal women.

This menu includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack, and would work for almost any low-carb, high-protein plan.

MealtimeFoods
Breakfast
Lunch
Snack
  • 1/2 cup regular cottage cheese (you can substitute ricotta for one more gram of carbohydrates) or, for those on the Paleo diet, a handful of nuts or olives.
  • 1 medium wedge of cantaloupe
  • 2 tablespoons flax seed meal
Dinner
  • 6 ounces of salmon, grilled, broiled, or baked 
  • 2 cups of non-starchy, low-carb vegetables, such as spinach, asparagus, broccoli, or cauliflower
  • Optional dessert (not counted in the analysis)

South Beach Compatible High-Protein Low-Carb Menu

This menu has 30 grams of net carbohydrates, 22 grams fiber, 110 grams protein, and 1,400 calories.

MealtimeFoods
Breakfast
  • Broccoli-cheese frittata or omelet with 1/2 cup cooked broccoli, 2 diced slices of Canadian bacon, and 1/3 cup low-fat cheese (omit the cheese for paleo diet)
Lunch
  • Vegetable soup with a can of black soybeans added. A serving is 1 cup of the soup.
  • A roast beef wrap made with two slices of lean roast beef, 1/2 cup roasted red peppers, and 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise, wrapped in a lettuce leaf.
Snack
  • 15 whole almonds or pumpkin seeds
Dinner
  • Chicken Marsala
  • 1 cup cooked greens (spinach, chard, mustard, or kale)
  • Optional dessert (not counted in the analysis)

No-Cooking High-Protein Low-Carb Menu

If you want a convenient diet day that doesn't require cooking, this one uses some dine-out options as well as no-cook options.

MealtimeFoods
Breakfast
  • Breakfast smoothie with 14 ounces milk or milk substitute, 1/2 cup blueberries, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon lemon juice or lime juice.
Lunch
  • Order two grilled chicken breast sandwiches without the bun or condiments at a fast food restaurant such as Wendy's. You might ask if you can just order the grilled (non-breaded) chicken breast for less than a whole sandwich. Also, order a side salad that has only greens and vegetables (no croutons).
Snack
  • 3 large mushrooms or other vegetable dippers with 1 tablespoon of spreadable cream cheese or nut butter
Dinner
  • Chicken club wrap with 4 ounces of sliced or roasted chicken, 1/2 cup red pepper, a tomato, half of an avocado, and 1 tablespoon mayonnaise. Use large lettuce leaves as the wrap.
  • Optional dessert

If You Need to Adjust the Menu

The calories in this daily plan can be varied most easily by adding and subtracting protein and fat. If you feel you're still getting hungry, you could use more fat to cook your eggs or salmon, add cheese to your morning omelet, use more dressing on your salad, or add butter to your vegetables.

If your particular carbohydrate needs are higher than this, then add more carbs. You can use the Atkins carbohydrate ladder as a guide, adding 5 or 10 grams of carbohydrate to the daily total, with preference given for the sources being low-carb vegetables, dairy foods that are high in fat and low in carbs, nuts and seeds, and berries or cherries. If you need fewer carbohydrates, omit the melon at snack time and the strawberries on the lunch salad.

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